Thursday 29th With weather preventing any moth trapping (and probably for tonight as well) it was a day for marking time. A walk along the old railway was not massively exciting, though a Southern Hawker was the first I have seen down here.
The day’s main event was in the evening where we went to a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest at Maumbury Rings, an ancient Neolithic henge in Dorchester that was turned into an amphitheatre by the Romans and altered further during the English Civil War. The play was billed as a slapstick version of the play by a trio called Slapstick Picnic and with two principal actors playing all the parts, with relentless swapping of costumes and characters it was a hilarious performance that resembled a meeting of Oscar Wilde and Tommy Cooper. They apparently have a sister company that will be doing an all-female version of Macbeth on bicycles.
Tuesday 27th It feels a bit like the familiar midsummer hiatus when mothing slows down and return bird migration has yet to get going. Not that you would have known it on Monday morning when we had a totally bonkers 583 Common Footman moths in or around the trap! So, the plan is to make a few visits to Broadcroft Quarry on he east side of Portland, from where the Observatory is visible not far down the coast, so it should be reasonable for migrants. Watch this space …….
Tuesday night was the warmest night of the year thus far and on Wednesday 20th Dot Moth, Dwarf Cream Wave, Fen Wainscot, Dun-bar and Four-spotted Footman were all new for the year (and, for us, for Dorset). There were also a ludicrous 220 Common Footman and the overall total exceeded two nights previously with 486 macros of 65 species.
We treated ourselves to a visit to the dentist, which has proved to be more difficult to achieve than we could have believed. However, we eventually found Park Street Dental Practice about two weeks ago and today was our chance to meet the very pleasant Pascal Pinto and his staff and to complete the registration process and to enjoy some obligatory gouging and poking.
With the thermometer up around 25°C again, we returned home via Dorset Aquatics and got some more plants for our garden pond, which now looks pretty much like this …..
Monday 19th Recently we have been catching amazing numbers of Brown-tail moths and the show continued last night, with nearly 50 scattered around the trap when I took it indoors and a total of 74 for the morning, which is more than in our best year at Sandwich. In terms of variety, it was the best night of the year so far, with 563 moths of 81 species. Cloaked Minor we had previously recorded at the farm, but Scarce Footman, Festoon (very much restricted to the eastern half of the county, possibly making this the most western record of all), Slender Pug and Cloaked Carpet (nationally Scarce B and unrecorded at Sandwich) were all new. The photo of the Cloaked Carpet isn’t the most pleasing but it was always going to turn into a flying carpet when liberated!
Our butterfly list moved up another peg with a Marbled White in the garden – species # 22.
Thursday 15th Last night’s mothing efforts were rewarded by Dingy Footman, Herald and a scrummy Lilac Beauty, which we only recorded twice in Sandwich. I settled on a visit to Tout Quarry on Portland for the rest of the morning, principally to photograph Graylings, though the drive up the steep road, in places recalling a village in the French Pyrenees, took more patience than usual with holiday traffic becoming heavier by the day. It had clouded by the time I got to the quarry but it remained warm and sunny spells were never too far away. Graylings were very obliging, allowing several photographs, a couple of Ringlets settled close by and as I skirted the east side of the quarry overlooking Chesil and The Fleet an unexpected Lulworth Skipper posed for a photo, bringing my Dorset butterfly list for this year to 33 species. Although it was cloudy for much of the afternoon, a Peacock appeared at our buddleia, making it 20 species for our garden this year.
Tuesday 13th At the risk of tempting fate, the recent unsettled weather is forecast to have broken at last and high pressure is set to dominate for the next couple of weeks at least. Last night’s moths included Garden Tiger, Small Fan-footed Wave and Lesser Yellow Underwing, along with a second Blue-bordered Carpet. However, the surprise of the morning came just before midday when I discovered a male Golden-ringed Dragonfly cruising up and down along the hedge bordering our meadow. Not long after Essex Skipper (black undersides to the antennae and all) became butterfly species #19 for the garden.
Saturday 10th. Well, the absence of posts for a week illustrates how it has been, with rain never far away and temperatures barely better than June, let along the first ‘real’ month of summer. Moth numbers have been poor for the time of year and new species fewer than expected, although Wednesday night brought Short-cloaked Moth (we only trapped two at Sandwich and Coronet. The photo of the latter brings to mind the ‘Spot the Ball’ competition that used to run in Sunday newspapers, in between the scandal, politics and footie pages. Might ‘Spot the Moth’ catch on? The other main highlight came on Thursday during installation of our new pond liner, when a Clouded Yellow belted across our meadow – butterfly species #17 for the garden this year.
Getting soaked while getting the moth trap in at 04.30 on Saturday 3rd wasn’t the best of starts, but Swallow-tailed Moth, Small Blood-vein and Small Fan-foot were new for the year when we went through its contents in only slight drizzle later on. Despite cloud cloaking the ridges opposite we dared to hope that Portland might produce some shearwaters, but apart from more or less constant auks, a few Gannets and the usual gulls it was very quiet. A quick visit to the Bird Observatory to re-acquaint ourselves with Peter Morgan, down for the summer, also gave us the chance to see a couple of Crescent Darts in the trap, Very much a coastal species there might be the barest of chances that one might get adventurous ….. Meanwhile, here’s another of our neighbours, sizing up Shades’ cows for breakfast.